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Shrestha, Roman. (2012). "Maternal Mortality in Nepal: Addressing the Issue." Student Pulse, 4(10). Retrieved from: <http://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=708>
By ROMAN SHRESTHA
2012, VOL. 4 NO. 10
Each year around 358,000 women die because of complications during pregnancy or childbirth and many more encounter serious problems (WHO, 2012). The vast majority of these problems occur in low-income countries, where poverty increases sickness and reduces access to care. These deaths occur within a context of gender-based, economic, political and cultural discrimination and neglect of women‟s right to equal status and equitable access to services. Nearly all of these deaths are preventable because the majority of deaths are caused by hemorrhages, sepsis, hypertensive disorders, prolonged or obstructed labor, and unsafe abortions (Rosenfield, & Maine, 1985). Despite its recognition as an important and complex health issue, it was not until 1980s that maternal mortality was added onto the international health agenda as a major public health issue (Suwal, 2008). The patterns of maternal mortality (MM) reveal large levels of inequity between and within countries – 99 % of maternal deaths occur in developing countries and only 1 % of deaths in developed countries (Bhutta et al., 2005). Sub-Saharan Africa leads this death toll, accounting for 50 % of all maternal deaths worldwide (900 deaths per 100,000 live births), and South Asia accounts for another 35 % (500 deaths per 100,000 live births), which is in extreme contrast with the high-income countries (9 deaths per 100,000 live births) (Mills et al., 2009). Despite the commitment of the international community to reduce MM, the magnitude of the problem remains immense. Thus, the goal of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG 5): Reducing MM by three-quarters by the year 2015 has barely been achieved. Over the past 30 years, various community-level interventions have been implemented that include approaches to strengthen healthcare system, to increase awareness about maternal and child health services (MCHs), to provide financial incentives to pregnant women and so on. The UN Population Fund‟s (UNFPA) “Global Program to Enhance Reproductive Health
Commodity Security” and the World Health Organization‟s (WHO) evidence-based guidance in family planning have helped improve access to reproductive health supplies and voluntary use of family planning in more than 70 countries, including in Ethiopia, Laos, Madagascar and Mongolia. Similarly, the UNFPA and the International Confederation for Midwives has been collaborating with individual government of 15 countries in Africa, the Arab States and Latin America to increase the capacity and the number of midwives through formal education, quality training and evaluation. (UN, 2010). Likewise, many countries, like India and Nepal have initiated the Rural Health Mission that conducts community outreach programs on MCH and provides cast incentives to women. Also, in many countries like Nepal, the provision of safe abortion has been legalized as an interventional approach for reducing maternal death (Crane, & Smith, 2006).
Maternal Mortality in Nepal
Nepal, a small landlocked country, lies in the central Himalayas, wedged between India and China. With an area of 56,827 square miles and a population of approximately 27 million, Nepal is the world‟s 93rd largest country by land mass and the 41st most populous country (ImNepal, 2012). Maternal mortality (MM) is one of the major health issues in Nepal. In 1996, the Nepal Family Health Survey estimated maternal mortality ratio (MMR) to be 539 per 100,000 live births, which was the highest among the South-Asian countries at that time. The Demographic Health Survey (DHS) 2006 showed Nepal‟s MMR as 281 per 100,000 live births, a decrease by almost 50% (Suwal, 2008). For this significant progress and commitment towards improving maternity health goal under the MDG-5, Nepal was honored at the 2010 Millennium Development Goals Review Summit. The MMR was lowest amongst women in twenties, with increased risk for those aged under 20 and between 3034. The figure for those aged over 35 was considerably higher (962 per 100,000 live births). There were also differences between ethnic groups, with higher rates among Muslims, Terai /Madhesi and Dalits (Nepal Monitor, 2010). Pregnancy and delivery-related causes are among the top ten reasons for MM in Nepal. The main direct cause, hemorrhage, has been dramatically reduced, down from 41% in 1998 to 24% in 2006. The decline reflects a reduction in postpartum (from 37% to 19%), rather than antepartum. The contributions of eclampsia, abortion related complications, gastroenteritis and anemia have increased, while those from obstructed labor and puerperal sepsis have
more than halved since 1998. Heart disease accounts for 7%. There was an increase in the proportion of pregnancy related deaths occurring in a health facility, to 41%; with 40% occurring at home; and 14% in transit. In 1998 just 21% of deaths occurred in facilities and 67% at home (Nepal Monitor, 2010). Many pregnancies were unwanted; suggesting the pregnancy status of the women may have placed them at greater risk. Of the total MM, 39% occurred during the intrapartum period and up to 48 hours afterwards and 61% in the antepartum and postpartum periods suggesting that interventions should focus more on this period. Over 80% of women who died from maternal causes were emergency admissions in a critical state. MM also caused indirectly by hepatitis, diabetes, malaria, infections, malnutrition, and anemia. The indirect causes, though preventable, contribute to about 24% of all maternal deaths in the world (Weston, 1986).
Risk Factors in Nepal
Traditionally, pregnancy is considered to be natural in Nepal. Thus, regular check-ups are thought to be unnecessary, particularly in rural areas, unless there are complications. One study unveiled that some groups of women in Nepal do not seek prenatal care (PC) because they think infants were more likely to die if they do so while these infants were in the womb (Suwal, 2008). Such norms were found in other developing countries like Egypt, as well. Women‟s as well as their families‟ (especially husbands and mother-in-laws) perception about MHS were averting women from receiving PC, thus, increasing risk of maternal mortality. However, the proportion of mothers who receive PC from skilled birth attendants (SBAs), increased from 24% in 1996 to 44% in 2006. This might be one of the factors for reduced maternal mortality in recent years (Puri et al., 2008). Also, life-style and different cultural practices of various ethnic groups in Nepal showed a remarkable impact on MM. For example, Mongoloid women‟s almost 50% lower probability of dying of maternal causes compared to orthodox Brahmin and Chettri women supports the “women‟s empowerment” theory strongly. It is not only the high status and autonomy of Mongoloid women but also their late age at marriage, the affection and respect their spouses and family members give them affect their mortality related to reproduction (Suwal, 2008). Likewise, factors such as early marriages, frequent births, and high parity create health hazards to women. In many rural areas of Nepal, early marriage is customary. Sending young girls off in marriage is a big relief in some cultures such as in the Terai plains of Nepal
where dowry and tilak are compulsory and the tilak amount goes higher as unmarried girls grow older. Marrying early, consequently, conceiving early is taking more lives of women than Nepalese realize. Also, frequent births entail repeated life-threatening processes. Moreover, some reports show that 50% of all maternal deaths in Nepal (where abortion was illegal until September 2002) were due to induced abortion (Suwal, 2008). Unsafe, unhygienic and sometimes fatal natures of practices conducted by traditional birth attendants were the reasons for maternal deaths in such cases (Thapa et al., 1994). Other attributed factors for high MM are the 'three delays' - delay in taking the decision to seek medical assistance, delay in accessing appropriate care and delay in receiving care at health centers. Delay in seeking help due to cultural beliefs, problems of finance, transport, and decision-making has been reported by a number of studies in Nepal (Suwal, 2008). Many Nepalese people, especially in rural areas believe that the complication is created by an evil eye and thus seek help from traditional healers (Shamans) before seeking medical help. Also, many women do not seek prenatal care because they are unaware of its benefits (Ministry of Health, 1998). Furthermore, many district hospitals are unable to cope with obstetric emergencies. Among other problems, drugs are not always readily available in the pharmacy and if available, the poor families are unable to buy. In addition, the health care staffs in the rural health posts are often reported as being unreliable, hostile towards local patients, and absent from the care centers; the major probable causes of not seeking medical care by rural women even when medical care was available (Suwal, 2008). Furthermore, most women in rural areas of Nepal are forced to perform daily household chores and fieldwork that demands physical strength. Also, sanitation, a factor that affects MM, is extremely poor in home, where almost all the deliveries take place (Ministry of Health, 1996/1997). The 2006 Nepal Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) revealed that 82% of all women give birth at home and a skilled professional attends only 18% of those births. This is a result of a range of socio-economic and cultural barriers to service use. As a result of the high proportion of home deliveries, low use of professional care at birth, low utilization of PC and inadequate availability of health services, many Nepali women continue to suffer from pregnancy related complications. For example, only 44% of women who gave birth received at least one prenatal care contact with a health professional (Puri et al., 2008). In rural areas, the rate was even lower, at 38%. Only 19% of women delivered their babies with the
assistance of a SBA (doctor, nurse or midwife) and 18% at a health facility. The percentage of births assisted by relatives and others has declined very little over the 10-year period before the survey (NDHS, 2006).
In Nepal, where a woman dies every four hours due to pregnancy-related causes, use of prenatal care (PC) has been minimal. According to the NDHS 2006, more than 80% of deliveries occurred at home in the absence of SBAa and only 29% of total women made the recommended four prenatal visits (NDHS, 2006). Various scientific studies have shown that PC, which helps women to identify complication and potential risks and gives direction to plan for safe delivery, is a significant component of maternal health. For example, the most important evidence includes the distribution of iron, foliate and malaria prophylaxis can help to improve the nutritional status of women making them better able to withstand hemorrhage and prolonged labor and improve chronic anemia (Suwal, 2008). Also, blood pressure monitoring can prevent deaths from toxemia. Significance of PC visit can go beyond pregnancy period because; women who seek PC generally also tend to seek assistance from a health professional during childbirth. Hence PC utilization is an important determinant of use of safe delivery care, which in turn reduces MM (Prata et al., 2010). Figure 1 - A framework summarizing the factors associated with maternal mortality
This study presents findings from the analyses of Nepal Demographics and Health Survey 2006 (NDHS) data. For this study, we used utilization of prenatal care (PC) by women as a key factor in maternal mortality in Nepal. Respondents were asked whether they had seen anyone for PC during the pregnancy preceding each live birth in the last five years. From the database, the variable “PC,” a dichotomous variable with responses “No: did not receive PC” and “Yes: received PC” was used as a dependent variable. Out of 4182 mothers, 1161 mothers (27.8%), did not seek PC whereas the rest, 3021 mother (72.2%) sought some kind of PC. Associations between PC status (received care vs. no care) and four major groups of independent variables (demographic factors, knowledge, attitude and practice) were investigated in the analysis. Demographics characteristics included ten variables: mother‟s age, type of place of residence type, ecological zone, regions, mother‟s highest educational attainment, number of household members, religion, wealth index, native language of mother and survival status of previous child. According to Independent samples t-test, there was no significant difference in the mean number of household members between the two PC status groups (t(4182)=.307, p=.78). However, we observed a significant difference in the mean age of women between the two PC status group (χ2 = 226.207, p = <.001). Majority of the women in the age group 20-34 years and younger age group received PC, the highest percentage
(82.9%) being in the 15-19 years of group. In contrast, majority of women belonging to 3539 age group or higher did not receive PC, the highest being 67.9%) being in the 45-49 age group. In the NDHS database, mother‟s highest educational level is categorized into four categories: No education, Primary, Secondary and Higher. Chi-square analyses showed a significant association between mother‟s highest educational level and PC status in pf women (χ2 = 398.20, p = <.001). Furthermore, the percentage of mothers who received PC showed an increasing trend with increasing level of education. In the four education groups – no education, primary, secondary and higher – the percentage of mothers who received PC were 61.2%, 80.5%, 92.5% and 100% respectively. Hence, only 5.5% of women with higher than secondary level of schooling did not receive PC, in comparison to 82% of women with no education. Ecological zone (Mountain, Hill, Terai) was also significantly associated with whether or not the women received PC (χ2 = 117.015, p = <.001). Mothers who were living in the Mountain region were least likely to receive PC, and those who were living in the Terai Region were most likely to receive PC, with mothers who were living in the Hill region falling in between. 39.2% of women in the Mountain region reported having received no PC in comparison to 32.7% and 20.1% of mothers living in the Hill and Terai region respectively. Similar relation was seen between women living in different development regions of Nepal (Eastern, Central, Western, Mid-Western, Far-western) (χ2 = 45.58, p = <.001). Analysis showed Eastern Region had the largest proportion of women (78.7%) who reported having received PC. The Mid-western Region showed the lowest proportion of women (64.4%) who reported having received PC. There were no considerable differences in the proportions of two PC status groups between Western and Far-western groups. There was a stronger significant association between the type of place of residence (urban vs. rural) and PC status (χ2 = 114.98, p = <.001). Consistent with what we would expect, a greater proportion (85.5%) of women who lived in the urban region reported having received PC in comparison to 68.1% of women who lived in the rural region. DHS wealth index quintile distribution (poorest, poorer, middle, richer, richest) was significantly associated with PC status (χ2 = 494.85, p = <.001). As we expected, there was perfect linear trend in the proportion of „received PC‟ group among the increasing quintiles
of wealth index. The „Richest‟ group, had the highest proportion (93.5%) of women who reported received PC, followed by the „Richer‟ group (84.9%) of women who reported having received PC. The percentage of women who reported having received PC in the first three quintiles (Poorest, Poorer, Middle) was 50.2%, 68.9% and 76.3% respectively. Religion (Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Kirat, Christian or other) was also found to be associated with PC status (χ2 = 30.56, p = <.001). Christian women were most likely to seek PC (81.1%) whereas Buddhist women were less likely to have received PC (59%). Similarly, survival status of last child was significantly associated with the status of PC among women (χ2 =16.18, p = 0.<.001). Interestingly, the percentage of women having received PC was greater among those who had the last child alive (88%) than those whose last child were dead (72.8%). Also, the type of native language spoken by the women was significantly associated with their PC status (χ2 =145.02, p = 0.<.001). In contrast to our hypothesis, women speaking Maithili were more likely to have received PC (85.8%) than women speaking Nepali, national language (76.7%). Three groups of variables related to Knowledge, Attitude and Practice were analyzed to investigate whether or not these variables have any association with Nepalese women receiving PC. The first group included variables that measured knowledge status of women, including heard about family planning (through radio, TV or newspaper) and whether or not women know where to get abortion. Opinion of women in terms of desire for more children and whether or not wanted last child were included in the „attitude‟ group. Smoking habit (including cigarettes, pipe, snuff, chewing tobacco or other), use of cesarean section, preparation for delivery (including saved money, arranged transportation, found blood donor, contacted health worker, bought safe delivery kit, prepared food and clothes), use of special safe delivery kit, total pregnancies and use of iron/folic acid tablet were included in the „practice‟ cluster. Within „knowledge‟ variables, women who had heard about family planning was significantly associated with PC status (χ2 = 117.67, p = <.001). As expected, 76.9% of women who said that they have heard about family planning from radio, TV or newspaper received PC, in comparison to 60.1% in women who said that they have not heard about family planning from none of the sources. Similarly, whether or not the women had knowledge about where to get an abortion was strongly associated with PC status (χ2 =
185.68, p = <.001). 80.2% of women who were aware of place to have abortion have received PC compared to 64.1% of women who did not know about the place to get an abortion. Furthermore, the proportion of women who reported having received PC was the lowest (57%) when the respondents had no knowledge of where to get an abortion. In terms of „attitude‟, both women‟s desire for more children (χ2 = 74,45, p = <.001), and women wanting the last child (χ2 = 105.48, p = <.001) were significantly associated with PC utilization. Surprisingly, the proportion of women who reported having received PC was higher (83.6%) among women who desired more children after more than two years than those who wanted within two years (67%). The proportion of women who have received PC was the lowest (55.6%) among women who wanted more children but were unsure about the timing. Contrary to our expectation, women who wanted their last child „later‟ (81.3%) had higher proportion to have received PC than women who wanted their last child „then‟ (74.4%), whereas, the proportion of having received PC among women who did not want last child was 58.9%. Similarly, in the „practice‟ variables group, total number of pregnancies (t(4182)=17.6, p=<.001) was significantly associated with PC status of women. Women whether or not smoked (χ2 = 228.25, p = <.001) had strong relationship with the status of PC. The proportion of PC status was much higher among women who did not smoke (77.5%) compared to women who smoked (51.3%). Also, use of caesarean section (χ2 = 33.183, p = <.001) to deliver child was strongly associated with PC status. Interestingly, 96.4% of women who used C-section during delivery reported receiving PC in comparison to 71.6% in women who did not use C-section. Likewise, preparation for delivery (χ2 = 268.95, p = <.001) for example, saved money, arranged transportation, contacted health worker, found blood donor, bought safe delivery kit and clothes and prepared food, was significantly associated with PC status of women. The majority (83.3%) of women who made preparation for delivery did receive P, whereas only 60.3% of women who did not make preparation received PC. Finally, both the variables, „special safe delivery kit used‟ (χ2 = 194.3, p = <.001) and „iron/folic acid tabled used‟(χ2 =252.96, p = <.001), showed significant relationship with the PC status. 62.1% of mothers reported to have received PC who did not use special safe delivery, in comparison to 93.6% of women who did not use special safe delivery kit. Similarly, the proportion of use
of PC was much higher among women who used iron/folic acid tablet during pregnancy (94.2%) than women who did not use (66.7%).
Of all health indicators in Nepal, maternal mortality reveals the greatest gap between rich and poor, women residing in rural and urban areas and uneducated and educated women. Previous studies have shown that interventions to increase utilization of PC significantly help to reduce this gap of maternal death. A countrywide analysis of 2006 NDHS data showed that perceived barriers to utilization of PC, such as access to MHS, knowledge about PC, family barrier, transportation and the distance to health facility significantly explained why Nepalese women did not receive PC. These results suggest that increasing awareness on PC through mass media and focus groups, educating other influential members in the family (husbands, mother-in-laws) about PC and increasing access to MHS in healthcare facilities may have a significant impact on improving utilization rates for PC. The application of our multilevel intervention designed to increase utilization of PC among women is stratified into two levels 1) Organizational level and 2) Population level. This collaborative interventional approach from both levels will primarily focus on increasing awareness on PC use among women and their families. Family planning (FP) reduces maternal mortality by enabling women to prevent conception, which in turn eliminates the risk of unwanted pregnancy and mortality related to pregnancy. The USAID-Nepal launched the Nepal Family Health Program in 2001 to increase awareness and use of FP and MCHS (Puri et al., 2008). The program selected and trained FCHVs to deliver health education and MHS to women in their communities. CHWs, including FCHVs could play a huge role to mobilize these services into rural areas of Nepal. Another important component of our intervention would be to provide CHWs, including FCHVs, culturally competent trainings to disseminate FP related information and to provide FP services. This would be done in collaboration with organizations involved with MCHS, including Ministry of Health, WHO and other stakeholders. Increased efforts could be made by the government and partners involved to expand cross-cultural and educational trainings for all CHWs, and FCHVs in particular, so as to enhance their effectiveness, credibility and acceptability in various caste and ethnic groups.
Smoking prior to or during pregnancy has been established as one of the risk factors for maternal mortality. Although, only 20% of women are engaged in smoking but the cumulative effect of first- and/or second-hand smoking is significant (NDHS, 2006). As a commitment towards reducing effects of smoking, Government of Nepal recently implemented „Tobacco Control and Regulation Act 2011‟. Our intervention could include utilizing narrowcast media to reach population without access to broadcast media; as well as, direct education of mothers, their husbands, their mother-in-laws, and other family members to disseminate anti-smoking messages, announcements, and programs to induce change in behavior and discourage smoking. INGOs/NGOs that are concerned with MCH could assist in this process to reach to greater number of population. We could use street theater performance, a popular form of entertainment in Nepali communities as a means to convey important social messages. INGOs/NGOs could collaborate with local street performers, or train local amateurs to design and implement community street theater performances that present information messages about the importance of proper utilization of PC. These community street theater performances would be carefully designed to fit within the cultural framework and languages of specific communities. The lack of trained health care, particularly in rural parts of Nepal has significantly contributed to increased number of maternal deaths. One of the interventional components could include collaborative efforts of mother‟s group (Aama Samuha), NGOs and governmental organizations to provide trainings and financial incentives to the FCHWs, CHWs to provide home-based delivery care, to conduct outreach programs and to recommend proper referral channel. These trained personal will encourage pregnant women and their families (husbands, mother-in-laws) to prepare and to plan for birth, postnatal period and any complications/emergencies that may occur. In addition, trained community leaders in schools, religion, and in vaccination posts and community health posts could also carry out some educational programs. In Nepal, many people follow superstitious beliefs such as the cause for maternal death to be evil spirit (Bokshi, Bhoot, Pret). Hence, people tend to prefer traditional healer, who provides them with amulets (Buti) to ward off evil spirit. Thus, the MM reduction intervention program could include teaching traditional healers to refer cases of maternal health to area health services. Using their competencies, CHWs could help train traditional healers how to diagnose pneumonia based on clinical signs including counting respiratory rate and using specific cutoff rates by age.
Evidence has shown that MM, which majorly occur due to three delays, result from a culmination of violation of decision-making and human rights against women and girls (UNESCAP, 2010). Despite the progress that government has made in collaboration with different stakeholders, the larger problem of lack of education and empowerment of women is still an issue in Nepal. Our interventional component could focus on promoting women‟s decision-making capacity through social mobilization, such as woman-to-woman peer support, testimonials of local people, engaging respected traditional practitioners, and building on benign traditional practices, to increase the priority communities give to pregnancy and childbirth, and their sense of responsibility and obligation. Including household members (husbands, mother-in-laws), local leaders, in galvanizing community action can ensure women‟s voices are heard, and improve women‟s access to MCHS. Women representatives in NGOs, women‟s‟ groups and mothers groups could play an important advocacy role in bringing related policy and program needs to the attention of municipal or VDC representatives at the local governance levels. Overall, our multilevel interventions to improve proper utilization of prenatal care to reduce MM will focus on increasing public awareness about maternal health and strengthening of facility- and home-based MCH services through community mobilization of trained health workers and use of local narrowcast media such as street theaters to reach to every household. We will also include components of cultural competency, technical skills and educational trainings for all CHWs, FCHVs and other individuals and groups (local volunteers, mothers groups) who are actively involved in the community, to enhance their effectiveness, credibility and acceptability by the community members. We will incorporate influential family members (husbands, mother-in-laws and others) responsible in women‟s decision-making and their empowerment in all of our interventions. This process requires long-term time and resource commitment; therefore, collaborative efforts are needed from all stakeholders including individuals, local NGOs, educational institutions, government agencies and international organizations
It is difficult to determine whether maternal mortality interventions have been successful, partly due to complex interaction between prenatal care services and maternal death and also unavailability of the impact indicators such as maternal mortality. Reasons for this
unavailability include the poor quality of vital statistics reported by many developing countries like Nepal and the fact that, when recorded, maternal deaths are often not distinguished from deaths by other causes. It is therefore recommended that programs rely on internationally agreed upon indicators: the MDG indicator of skilled attendance at birth and the six “UN EmOC process indicators.” As recommended by the Global health experts, we will base our outcome monitoring and evaluation based on the performance of variables such as functionality and accessibility of health services and change in knowledge, attitude and practice (KAP) related to use of prenatal care. Indicator 1-Proportion of deliveries assisted by skilled health personnel: In Nepal, most births take place at home, and many, particularly in rural areas, are not attended by a skilled birth attendant. We believe that equipping women and their families about knowledge of safe motherhood practice and resources available, helps to improve people‟s perception about getting help of skilled healthcare worker during delivery, whether at home or at healthcare facility. Based on the pre- and post-intervention results, we will determine whether or not providing people with knowledge about MCH services have any impact on the use of these services. Indicator 2-Proportion of caesarean sections: It is a useful service indicator for many reasons. It is likely that C-sections are performed when women goes for prenatal visit and becomes aware about potential complication during delivery. Also, it is adequately recorded in hospital records. We will examine hospital records to determine the number of C-sections performed on women who were experiencing complications. This will provide us good insight about whether or not women used MHS after the implementation of our interventions. Indicator 3-Proportion of individuals using Family Planning (FP) services: Use of FP services helps women to avert unintentional pregnancies or to have safe birth spacing between children, thus, indirectly reduces risk of maternal mortality. Individuals, who have heard about FP during interventional activities, are more likely to use FP services such as contraceptives, birth-control pills, counseling, etc. Thus, as a part of our evaluation process, we will compare the number of people using FP services between pre- and post-intervention periods.
Indicator 4-Proportion of abortions: Even a decade after Nepal legalized abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy, women still report not knowing where to get abortion or seeking illegal and unsafe abortions. Lack of awareness of the abortion law and stigma drives women to unregistered clinics, increasing the risks of maternal death. After our interventional activities on MCH services, we expect to see more women, with the cases of unwanted pregnancies, to utilize safe practice of abortion in registered clinics or hospitals. Indicator 5-Proportion of individuals prepared for delivery: Women, including her family members, who are aware about PC or received PC, tend to make preparation for delivery such as saving money, arranging transportation, contacting health worker, having safe delivery kit, etc. We will evaluate the impact of our intervention on this aspect by looking at the post-intervention data on the number of individuals who have made all necessary arrangements for delivery. Indicator 6-Proportion of deliveries in healthcare facilities: Deliveries at home without SBA are a major concern in Nepal. Many people perform „at-home‟ delivery due to lack of awareness about potential complications, financial constrain, distance to health-facility, etc. Thus, looking at the proportion of place of delivery will provide us a good picture of effectiveness of our intervention; more delivery at the healthcare facilities signifying proper use of prenatal care.
Generalizability of Interventions
Maternal mortality (MM) presents a serious threat globally, with the vast majority the problem occurring in developing countries. Unintended pregnancies, socioeconomic variables, and inequalities in access to reproductive and general health care contribute to unacceptably high MM rates in these countries. In recent years, increasing attention has been given to this arena, especially in the context of the UN MDGs. Most of the developing countries like Nepal have similar issues such as lack of decision-making power, educational awareness, trained health personal, excessive physical labor and poor nutrition, which contribute to poor utilization of MHS, thus, increasing the risk of MM. Several studies have demonstrated the applicability and effectiveness of simple, costeffective interventions aimed at local level to encourage people to seek prenatal care, thus, decreasing risk during or after birth. For example, Srilanka and Honduras, a low-income
country like Nepal, where MMR was well over 500 per 100,000 live births embarked on unique and rigorous community outreach programs and home-based service delivery system by skilled health workers, especially in underserved areas (Sharma, 2010). With the benefit of a newly increased public awareness and access to healthcare within communities, both countries were able to remarkably reduce MM. Our interventions in Nepal, which primarily implements similar approaches focused on population level, using the resources and personals available at community level, will be applicable to other countries, especially in developing countries. Similarly, in a study by Prata et al. in Sub-Saharan Africa, it was concluded that FP and safeabortion services saved the most number of lives, followed by PC. In developing countries, at least 200 million women are unable to use FP methods because of lack of access to information and services or the support of their husbands and communities (Prata et al., 2010). Our intervention, which also focuses on delivering educational awareness to women and their family members about the importance of use of family planning and MCH services, will be significantly useful in other countries, especially developing nations to increase overall utilization of these service and to reduce the risks of maternal mortality. Limitation: Given the current international policy focus on intrapartum care, it is not surprising that more than twice as many interventions attempted to tackle tertiary prevention than primary and secondary i.e., the timeliness and quality of care received than decision to seek care and access to care. This is partly a reﬂection that simple and clinical interventions (e.g., hospital-based care, nutritional supplements) are easier to deliver and evaluate than programmatic or complex public health interventions (e.g., community knowledge/behavior or transport interventions). Interventions that address the ﬁrst or second delays are more likely to be complex-target on wider population, issues of cultural competency and outreach health personals, socio-economic hurdles, etc. This might serve as a discouraging factor for many health workers, especially policy makers and donors, to implement primary and secondary interventional approaches, like we proposed to reduce the risk of maternal mortality.
Maternal mortality is a serious public health problem in other developing countries. More than 80% of these deaths, which are caused by hemorrhage, sepsis, unsafe abortion, obstructed labor and hypertensive diseases of pregnancy, are preventable when there is access to adequate reproductive health services, equipment, supplies and skilled healthcare workers (Rosenfield, & Maine, 1985). These results suggest that there was a relatively lower utilization of prenatal care among women, especially, who are of poor socioeconomic status, older age groups, and rural areas of Nepal. In addition, women who lack knowledge of family planning and women who practice behavior related to unsafe reproductive health were directly linked to have poor use of prenatal care. These imply that providing information on prenatal care in simple terms or through pictures that enable them to understand easily are important. Interventional approaches and policies should be put in place to make reliable prenatal care easily accessible to disadvantaged group at free or low cost. In a developing country such as Nepal, where rural and urban disparities in terms of health facilities and lifestyle are highly polarized, specific community-based programs are needed. Evidences have shown that collective effort of different governmental, and international organizations, education institutions, local NGOs, mothers group, mass media, etc. to implement community-based interventions have been successful to lower maternal deaths. This is possible due to the increased contraceptive prevalence rate, the decreased anemia among pregnant women because of free distribution of iron capsules, legalized safe abortion, financial incentive for women who deliver babies in health institutions, etc. Also, authorities need to emphasize not only in implementing of interventional programs but also on keeping track of their success rates and drawbacks. Also, special consideration must be given to sustain such programs in the future.
Bhutta, Z. A., Darmstadt, G. L., Hasan, B. S., & Haws, R. A. (2005). Community-based interventions for improving perinatal and neonatal health outcomes in developing countries: A review of the evidence. Pediatrics, 115(Supplement 2), 519-617. doi:10.1542/peds.2004-1441
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Rosenfield, A., & Maine, D. (1985). Maternal mortality - A neglected tragedy. The Lancet, 326(8446) 83-85. Retrieved from http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0140673685901886 complexity. Canadian Studies in Population, 35(1), 1-26. Thapa, S., Thapa, P. J., & Shrestha, N. (1994). Abortion in Nepal: Emerging insights. Advances in Population : Psychosocial Perspectives, 2, 253-270. UN. (2010). MDG 5: Improve maternal health. Retrieved May 4, 2012, from http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/MDG_FS_5_EN_new.pdf UNESCAP. (2010). Gender equality and empowerment: A statistical profile of selected issues in the Asia-Pacific Region. Retrieved May 6, 2012, fromhttp://www.unescap.org/sdd/publications/gender/SDD_pub_2530.pdf Weston, L. 1986. Reducing Maternal Deaths in Developing Countries. World Bank: Population, Health and Nutrition Department. World Bank. (2012). Nepal country overview 2012. Retrieved May 3, 2012, from http://go.worldbank.org/4IZG6P9JI
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